Any writer building an author platform knows it takes time, effort, and patience. Sadly, too many first-time authors publish a book without building a strong platform and then wonder why their book doesn’t sell. Too many authors who hope to interest a traditional publisher are shocked when they receive rejection after rejection because they lack a professional network or public presence.
A strong platform is especially important for nonfiction writers who write as subject-matter experts. But how does a writer build a platform from scratch or continue to grow one before and after publishing a book?
Meet HARO, Your New Must-Read
After working with a few authors in a row who were frustrated by their lackluster book sales, I decided to add a new tool to my arsenal: I joined HARO with the express intention of notifying authors I work with about opportunities for growing their platforms.
You’ve never heard of HARO? The acronym stands for Help A Reporter Out, and it is a free sourcing service to connect journalists with relevant expert sources.
How does HARO work? Eucalypt Media explains it like this:
Journalists can send out (free!) requests for sources who meet the requirements for articles they’re writing; potential sources can scan through the (free!) queries and respond to the ones that fit the bill. Journalists find the sources they need, and sources get easy press.
Is it as simple as that? Yes, it is, and I have proof that it works, too!
Meet three authors who responded to HARO calls and gained free publicity to build their author platforms:
Patricia O’Gorman, PhD, author of The 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan and The Resilient Woman. Thanks to her diligence in responding to several calls for experts in her field, Dr. O’Gorman has been featured in articles in Glamour and Prevention magazines. I asked her how she responded to the pitches.
I answer exactly what they request and then offer more. Sometimes it is clear that they don’t know what they want, or that they are unclear about an area, which is why they are asking an expert. So I offer a context for my comments, but I try not to make it too long.
She agrees that answering HARO calls is a good way to help your platform-building efforts.
Definitely, plus it’s fun, and I think it is helping my writing, focusing me on writing everyday, writing faster, resulting in my having more confidence, challenging myself to explain my concepts in new ways, and it’s good for me.
Nate Battle, cancer survivor and author of BATTLE: Three Phases of Endurance During Crisis. As part of a series about prostate cancer screening, Linda Carroll of NBC News was looking to interview an African American man who was diagnosed with prostate cancer or has a family history of prostate cancer. When I saw the call I immediately called Nate; his battle against prostate cancer is one of the topics he discusses in his book. I asked him how he responded to the call.
In response to the request, I used a template format to provide background and details of my personal experience with prostate cancer, information about my family history, my website, contact information, and call to action indicating my interest in speaking with her further on the subject. The response would fall more inline with the detailed pitch category.
Nate was prominently featured in the article, titled “Should Prostate Cancer Screening Be Different for Black Men?” Although disappointed that his book wasn’t mentioned, he added, “I believe it will most certainly help with gaining exposure to my recently published first book and related public speaking promotion efforts.”
Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQ, author of Sleeping Your Way to the Top and Snoozby and the Great Big Bedtime Battle, is a credentialed and experienced sleep professional with extensive experience in sleep health consulting and promotion. Terry has responded to numerous HARO calls and says,
Even if you don’t have time to get something to the reporter (some are posted with very tight deadlines)—it’s a great way to see what topics people are interested in and what reporters / articles / are the most interesting and influential. This, in turn, keeps me up to date on the latest things going on in my area.
Terry has been featured in several pieces she’s responded to through HARO; here is one about drowsy driving. I asked her if she had the impression that she would be featured when she was interviewed by phone.
Yes, and most of the time we are (especially if there is a phone call involved)—but it’s a crap shoot if you just answer randomly. Some [journalists] will tell you when the article comes out, or sometimes [they don’t let you know] you are featured but you stumble across the article weeks later.
Interested in Giving HARO a Try?
Learn more about HARO and how it works here on their website, and be sure to read this and this for tips about pitching to journalists. One important point to remember: In your initial email give just enough information to let them know you are a perfect source; keep your response to about five sentences.
I have the best job in the world: I get to work with amazing writers. Some are first-time authors, while others have been writing books for decades, but where they are in their writing journey doesn’t matter to me. I get to help them polish and perfect their prose, and after working with them for weeks, sometimes months, I get pretty attached to them and their books. That means I want to help them be successful in any way I can.
Nothing is more disheartening than to see the results of all their hard work translate to … nothing. You can’t create a platform overnight, which is why publishing industry experts advise the best time to start building your platform is when you first think you might want to write a book. HARO might be a great place to start!
Have you tried Help A Reporter Out? If so, did you have any success? Would you recommend HARO to other authors as a platform-building strategy? If you haven’t tried it yet, do you plan to look into it after reading this article? Join the discussion below!
Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.